Scale of 1-10: 6.5
Pros:Strong female leads, enough conflict to make it interesting and unpredictable, decent character development, and solid writing all make this a book both teens and tweens can read and enjoy, though I'd only recommend it for tweens if they read above their level. Moms who vet their teens' reading can also rest assured this is a healthy read.
Cons:Archer chooses to write in the first person from different points of view, and while I find nothing wrong with that, all three girls sound pretty much alike, despite coming from very different backgrounds and being of different ethnicities and ages. Her geeky, younger character from the sticks sounds exactly like the affluent hipster with literary star parents, who sounds very much like the trendy, nouveau riche Beverly Hills daughter of an Indian heart surgeon. Had Archer given her characters each their own distinct voice, this would have been a much better and stronger novel. It's still a good one, but it could have been much better, and it's a shame Archer missed the boat.
Synopsis: Basically, the plot boils down to three young girls whose fathers have recently remarried, to stepmothers who are not the sorts of women many of us would appreciate as a parent, step or otherwise. Lives are upheaved, conflict ensues, and each of the girls ends up either choosing to go or being shipped off to boarding school, where they all eventually run into each other and plan revenge on the stepmonsters who have absconded with their formerly happy lives and paternal relationships.
My take: Despite a lack of strong, individual voice for each girl, Archer tells a good yarn and weaves the girls' stories and lives together well. I could see each character and the people in their lives clearly in my head, and nothing about the story was too horrendously outlandish, penguins notwithstanding. I liked that lessons were learned and the characters all grew and developed as the book progressed. There's no Mean Girl Syndrome or sexual conquest in the book, but there is plenty of Girl Power, and the story stresses healthy relationships. Archer left room for a sequel, and if she writes one, I will most likely read it. Despite what seems to be a deploring trend in first novels these days, The Poison Apples is a solid, dependable read, and much better than most teen fiction currently sitting on the shelves at your local Big Chain Bookstore.
You can find Lily Archer on MySpace.